Platinum Games has been around for nearly ten years at this point and has produced some of the best action games ever made. As the studio has grown, however, various teams within the company have taken on smaller, lower-budget projects, including last year's surprisingly solid Transformers: Devastation. The results aren't always so successful, however, as we saw with 2014's The Legend of Korra - a game many viewed as the studio's worst title. But, with the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, that may have changed.
A red flag is raised on starting the game; after passing its opening pre-rendered sequences, you're launched into an experience that runs at just 30 frames per second. While Platinum has certainly released 30fps titles in the past, including the excellent Vanquish, the studio's less visually ambitious titles still typically aim for 60fps. We're surprised to discover that Mutants in Manhattan has a 30fps cap, without any real visual extravagance to justify it. It's strange, especially given the game's producer mentions a 60fps target as a cause for omitting a multiplayer split-screen mode - a feature that never made it to the final product.
Unfortunately, this slower refresh doesn't translate to a much improved image, either. While the game operates at a native 1920x1080 on both PS4 and Xbox One, the lack of any anti-aliasing method results in a rough presentation. Anisotropic filtering is also absent, which means textures appear blurred at oblique angles, while shadows also have a coarse, low resolution appearance. The game's comic-book aesthetic works in its favour, at least, but this rough image quality and low frame-rate detract greatly from the experience.
While PS4 and Xbox One versions share the same graphical setup here, it's Microsoft's machine that falls short in one aspect; shadows. Despite the pixellated implementation on PS4, the quality drops further still for its current-gen rival. There's little else to divide the two, but it's a bizarre compromise given the standard was low in the first place.
On a positive note, motion blur is added to the mix for each console, and the turtles' kicks and punches are accentuated by a per-object form of the effect - giving moves a sense of weight. Animations are also authentic, but in action, few moves link together as fluidly as they do in Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising. Rather, the game has a stiffer look that bears a close resemblance to The Legend of Korra's animation system. Both it and Korra are unremarkable to play as a result; they suffer from similarly poor level design, and sadly lack the flair we see in Platinum's cream of the crop. But, with its lower overall frame-rate, Mutants in Manhattan is arguably the less enjoyable of these two straggling games.
As you progress through each map, the game fast descends into a repetitive slog focused on mundane tasks. After dropping into a new stage, for example, you're tasked with objectives like protecting a pizza stand, disarming bombs, or rolling a giant bag of money to a nearby goal. There's precious little direction to the next task however, and the only indication comes via clicking the right stick, which highlights mission objectives and enemies once paused. Tediously, only a few stages into the game we see assets also start being recycled, which only heightens the sense of repetition.
Such objectives might have worked better, had they been built around more enticing combat. Here, the winning tactic ultimately proves to be haplessly mashing buttons alongside AI controlled allies, until all enemy HP bars deplete. In its core design, it calls to mind an MMO combat system as opposed to a more refined action game, where each attack has little visible impact on foes. As part of a large rabble, it's often difficult to track the action too; your eyes wait on cooldown timers at the screen's side, while enemies deliver their own attacks to no apparent rhythm. It falls short of the expectations we had for a Platinum Games brawler, and while there are options to dodge and parry, the best timings for each are hard to gauge amidst the chaos.
On the technical side, at least a degree of parity exists between PS4 and Xbox One, barring shadows. It looks identical between the two otherwise, right down to the lack of anti-aliasing and decent texture filtering. However, there is an issue we ran into on Xbox One in particular that could prove troublesome for some users at launch. During our testing, the game can simply refuse to connect online, which also makes it impossible to upload saves to the cloud at times. This meant we were forced to play offline but, after exiting, it then failed to actually save our progress. Based on what we've been reading online, we aren't the only ones to run into this issue either - though this issue was also seen in Transformers Devastation on Xbox One at launch, and was soon rectified.
Mutants in Manhattan is also available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. On first approach, the PC version seems like the best option but, from what we've gleaned from existing PC footage, it too is arbitrarily capped at 30fps. Regardless of platform, it's hard not to be disappointed with the results here, which positions it as Platinum Games' weakest product to date.
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